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Japan cabinet OKs military expansion rules

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TOKYO (AFP): Japan's cabinet on Wednesday approved a set of bills bolstering the role and scope of the military, as the pacifist country redefines its position in the increasingly roiled Asia-Pacific region.

The bills are a pet project of nationalist Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who says Japan can no longer shy away from its responsibility to help safeguard regional stability, and must step out from under the shade of the security umbrella provided by the United States.

The draft legislation, which will go before lawmakers in the coming months, formalises a decision made by the cabinet last year to broaden the remit of Japan's well-equipped and well-trained armed forces.

It would allow them to go into battle to protect allies' so-called "collective defence"- something currently banned by a strict reading of Japan's pacifist constitution.

"Protecting the peace and lives of its people is a country's most important responsibility," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters.

"The security situation surrounding our country is extremely tense. So as to ensure peace and stability, we need to strengthen the Japan-US alliance and to enhance trust and cooperation among partners in the region.

"It is important to be ready for any eventuality. The purpose of the bills is to strengthen the deterrent and prevent conflict from happening."

Washington, which imposed the never-altered constitution on a defeated Japan during its post-World War II occupation, has long called for Tokyo to take on a more active role in their mutual security pact.

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Japan  Military  Asia Pacific  US  
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